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Who needs to work out when you can just take an exercise pill?

Exercising is one of those things that we all know we should be doing more often, but only a handful of us actually do so. I’d like to say that I can never find the time to do exercise, but the reality of the matter is that I’m too lazy to exercise, and the few times that I actually do, I’m always disheartened by the lack of immediately noticeable results and just give up. A new study that was published to Cell Metabolism, however, suggests that there may soon be a pill that will make all of my excuses meaningless, a so-called “exercise pill” that could make exercise more immediately rewarding, and therefore more enticing to people like me. 

It sounds too good to be true and for now, it is. But what if some of the benefits of exercise could be packed into a pill? Scientists are beginning to develop “exercise pills” that show some potential, according to two new papers—a review published in the journal Trends in Pharmacological Sciences and another small study published in the journal Cell Metabolism. “Everyone’s looking for a pill to replace exercise, but we’re just not there yet,” says the first study’s co-author Ismail Laher, professor in the department of anesthesiology, pharmacology and therapeutics at the University of British Columbia in Canada. “It’s not going to make a couch potato into Arnold Schwarzenegger.” So-called “exercise pills” are made from compounds that have been shown—mostly in studies done in animals—to mimic one or more of the effects of exercise, like developing new blood vessels, forming new mitochondria in cells or increasing the body’s capacity for exercise. “They’ll let you get muscles that are stronger and faster and reach your exercise goals much quicker,” Laher says.

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